As summer fades backstage, shadowed by its extended hot summer nights and free outdoor jazz concerts, fall will now take center stage, moving indoors from brisk, breezy nights to a hot, new season of live music at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Sept. 24, opening night in Rose Theater at Frederick P. Rose Hall (60th Street at Broadway), is sure to be a barnburner with high intensity swinging power. Jon Hendricks, the master of vocalese, will be joined by marquee vocalists Bobby McFerrin, Dianne Reeves, Kevin Burke, Sachal Vasandani and Aria and Michelle Hendricks (the latter two are Jon’s daughters) to perform a classic Lambert, Hendricks and Ross repertoire.
Jimmy Heath, who played a significant role in building and cultivating the landscape of jazz as an arranger, composer, saxophonist and educator, will also grace the stage in a rare performance with his big band. As a Libra, he will also be celebrating his 85th birthday.
Heath has performed on more than 100 albums, including seven with the Heath Brothers and 12 as a leader. He has written more than 125 compositions, many of which have become jazz standards recorded by other artists, including Art Farmer, “Cannonball” Adderley, Clark Terry, Chet Baker, Miles Davis, James Moody, Milt Jackson, Ahmad Jamal and Ray Charles.
In 1957, Hendricks teamed up with Dave Lambert and Annie Ross to form the legendary vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. With Hendricks as lyricist, the trio perfected the art of vocalese, a rhythmic flow with swinging syncopated harmonies on vocal instruments. This unique style earned them the designation “Number One Vocal Group in the World” for five consecutive years from Melody Maker magazine.
Back in the day, carrying a Miles Davis, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross album was a badge of hipness. The first time I heard “Cloudburst,” I was blown away. In order to hang out with the cool jazz crew, you had to know the lyrics to “Gimme that Wine,” “Twisted” or “Little Niles” straight through and no stuttering accepted, dig?
Hendricks served on the Kennedy Center Honors committee under Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.
In 2000, Hendricks returned to his hometown to teach at the University of Toledo, where he was appointed distinguished professor of jazz studies and received an honorary doctorate of the performing arts. He was recently selected to be the first American jazz artist to lecture at the Sorbonne in Paris.
Today, no group can touch their vocalese perfection. Jay-Z, Snoop and Kanye need to recognize where the real flow originated, until then, they are just frontin’.
At 90 years old, Hendricks has the goods, no frontin’, just plain old originality. He is imitated but never duplicated. He will be leading his own band for this performance. This is going to be a special moment in jazz that only happens once. The show begins at 8 p.m.
Hot Seats, $10 orchestra seats for each Rose Theater performance (excluding Jazz for Young People concerts), are available for purchase to the general public on the Wednesday of each performance week. Hot Seats are available only by walk up at the box office, with a maximum of four tickets per person, and are subject to availability.
For more information, visit jalc.org.